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VIGILANTIUS (fl. c. 400)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 60 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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VIGILANTIUS (fl. c. 400), the presbyter, celebrated as the author of a work, no longer extant, against superstitious practices, which called forth one of the most violent and scurrilous of Jerome's polemical treatises, was born about 370 at Calagurris in Aquitania (the modern Cazeres or perhaps Saint Bertrand de Comminges in the department of Haute-Garonne), where his father kept a " statio " br inn on the great Roman road from Aquitania to Spain. While still a youth his talent became known to Sulpicius Severus, who had estates in that neighbourhood, and in 395 Sulpicius, who probably baptized him, sent him with letters to Paulinus of Nola, where he met with a friendly reception. On his return to Severus in Gaul he was ordained; and, having soon afterwards inherited means through the death of his father, he set out for Palestine, where he was received with great respect by Jerome at Bethlehem. The stay of Vigilantius lasted for some time; but, as was almost inevitable, he was dragged into the dispute then raging about Origen, in which he did not see fit wholly to adopt Jerome's attitude. On his return to the West he was the bearer of 'a letter from Jerome to Paulinus, and at various places where he stopped on the way he appears to have expressed himself about Jerome in a manner that when reported gave great offence to that father, and provoked him to write a reply (Ep. 61). Vigilantius now settled for some time in Gaul, and is said by one authority (Gennadius) to have afterwards held a charge in the diocese of Barcelona. About 403, some years after his return from the East, Vigilantius wrote his celebrated work against superstitious practices, in which he argued against relic worship, as also against the vigils in the basilicas of the martyrs, then so common, the sending of alms to Jerusalem, the rejection of earthly goods and the attribution of special virtue to the unmarried state, especially in the case of the clergy. He thus covers a wider range than Jovinian, whom he surpasses also in intensity. He was especially indignant at the way in which spiritual worship was being ousted by the adoration of saints and their relics. All that is known of his work is through Jerome's treatise Contra Vigilantium, or, as that controversialist would seem to prefer saying, " Contra Dormitantium." Notwithstanding Jerome's exceedingly unfavourable opinion, there is no reason to believe that the tract of Vigilantius was exceptionally illiterate, or that the views it advocated were exceedingly "heretical." Soon, however, the great influence of Jerome in the Western Church caused its leaders to espouse all his quarrels, and Vigilantius gradually came to be ranked in popular opinion among heretics, though his influence long remained potent both in France and Spain, as is proved by the polemical tract of Faustus of Rhegium (d. c. 490).
End of Article: VIGILANTIUS (fl. c. 400)
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